Nestled amidst breathtaking landscapes and renowned for hosting the prestigious Tour de France, the French Alps beckon cycling enthusiasts from every corner of the globe. And while seasoned riders seek challenging climbs, these mountains offer a wealth of adventure for cyclists of all levels.
From stimulating ascents to thrilling descents, and even tranquil rides through serene valleys, the Alps promise an unforgettable two-wheeled exploration.
Join us as we unveil our six best cycling routes in the Alps…
Our top Alpine cycling routes
1. The Alpe d’Huez climb
- Length of climb: 13.2km
- Start elevation: 742m
- Summit elevation: 1850m
- Elevation gain: 1108m
- Gradient (avg): 8.1%
The Alpe d’Huez climb is a legendary route that has etched its name in the records of the Tour de France. With 21 bends over 13 kilometres, it’s an awe-inspiring challenge for riders daring to take on its ascent.
Each summer, an average of 1000 cyclists conquer this monumental climb, but the record was 37 minutes and 35 seconds, achieved by Marco Pantani in 1997, maintaining an average speed of 23km/. This goes to show the exceptional athleticism required to ascend this iconic route.
For cyclists seeking a taste of Tour de France history, it’s a monumental test of strength, determination, and cycling prowess.
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2. Col du Galibier and Col du Télégraphe
- Length of climb: 18.1km
- Start elevation: 1397km
- Summit elevation: 2642km
- Elevation gain: 1245m
- Gradient (avg): 6.9%
Situated in Valloire, the Col du Galibier bike ride offers a demanding yet rewarding experience as one of the highest paved mountain passes in the French Alps. Cyclists are treated to beautiful Alpine landscapes and sweeping panoramic views.
Renowned for its prominence in major cycling races like the Giro d’Italia, not to mention the Tour de France, this epic route allows riders to approach from either the North or South side.
The North side, starting in Valloire, holds more popularity and has been featured in the Tour de France in both 1911 and 2022. But, if you choose this route, before reaching the summit, you’ll have to conquer the Col du Télégraphe, adding an extra layer of challenge.
3. Col de la Madeleine
- Length of climb: 26.3km
- Start elevation: 415m
- Summit elevation: 2000m
- Elevation gain: 1585m
- Gradient (avg): 6.2%
The Col de la Madeleine bike ride is a true classic in the French Alps, famous for its long and steady ascent. Linking the climbs around Albertville to the Maurienne valley, it stands among the great cols of the Tour de France and the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Typically, the col opens its route from late May to early June, offering breathtaking views of the Vanoise National Park and the encompassing mountains. Plus, on a sunny day, you may be lucky enough to spot the Mont Blanc summit!
If you want to experience stunning Alpine vistas like no other, then the Col de la Madeleine is a must.
4. Annecy to La Clusaz loop
- Length of climb: 107km
- Route type: Circular
- Elevation gain: 2814m
Embarking from the medieval city of Annecy, this scenic and diverse cycling route weaves through picturesque landscapes, charming villages, and awe-inspiring mountainous terrain.
Cyclists will enjoy the perfect blend of testing climbs and thrilling descents, where they’re treated to a taste of the natural beauty that the French Alps are renowned for.
Though there are challenging ascents including the Croix-Fry and Colombière passes, this route differs slightly from the aforementioned rides. It’s a much longer distance, but you get more diversity in landscape. Along the way, you’ll pass through both Thônes and La Clusaz, which are home to a number of restaurants and bars where you can stop off for a rest along the way if you wish.
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5. Mont Ventoux from Bédoin
- Length of climb: 21.4km
- Start elevation: 273m
- Summit elevation: 1912m
- Elevation gain: 1639m
- Gradient (avg): 7.6%
The Mont Ventoux from Bédoin bike ride is an iconic and formidable ascent, with a distinctive lunar-like landscape.
Known for its steep gradients and relentless winds, it stands as a true test of endurance for cyclists, gaining recognition as one of the toughest climbs in the Tour de France. However, the rewards are extraordinary as the summit offers incredible views of the picturesque Provence region.
This ride is not for the faint of heart, but for cyclists who want to push themselves to the limit, Mont Ventoux from Bédoin is one for the list!
6. Col de l’Iseran
- Length of climb: 16km
- Start elevation: 1854m
- Summit elevation: 2764m
- Elevation gain: 910m
- Gradient (avg): 6%
Located in Val d’Isère, the Col de l’Iseran stands proudly as the highest paved mountain pass in the Alps, linking the Tarentaise and Maurienne valleys. The route treats cyclists to stunning views, where you may be lucky enough to catch glimpses of wildlife along the way.
Its reputation is solidified by its frequent inclusion in the Tour de France, drawing cycling enthusiasts from around the world to conquer its challenging slopes.
we hope you enjoyed this guide to the best cycling routes in the Alps. If you’re planning a cycling trip of your own, don’t forget to check out OVO Network’s range of cycle-friendly partner properties. All set less than 5km from a route, these properties come with secure bike storage and have the respected Accueil Vélo accreditation. Discover the collection below:
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